Ringland gipsy site plan 'could lose Newport council £5m’
A PROPOSAL to put a gipsy site on land in Newport could lose the council £5 million.
A confidential council report seen by the Argus said a committee of councillors assessing gipsy sites was told at previous meetings that the Hartridge Farm Road site had a multi-million-pound value.
The council wanted to partially fund the £29 million borrowed cost of building Llanwern High School by selling that land.
The revelation comes after the Argus reported officers said possible sites near the A449 and at Brickyard Lane in Allt-yr-Yn were unworkable.
An officer assessment of possible gipsy and traveller sites was published last week, but site valuation information was kept private because of its commercial sensitivity.
The scrutiny committee for community planning and development is to meet today to discuss what recommendations it makes to cabinet now for sites to be included in the local development plan.
The report says the council owns the Hartridge Farm Road site and “the £5,000,000 valuation represents a potential loss in receipt from the sale of the land to a house builder”.
Campaigner Frank Weston, chairman of the Ringland Matters residents group, said: “How can the council put a traveller site there when the financial plan for the council to offset some of its debt was to sell this land for housing?”
The road safety centre site is one of 11 shortlisted sites.
But a Welsh Government grant fund for gipsy sites does not apply to council-owned land.
Newport council said while the first stage of the process saw a list of sites assessed on suitability criteria set out by the Welsh Government, the second stage assessed how they could be delivered, looking at costs of developing each site, including purchasing the land or its potential value.
“All criteria and assessments will be fully considered,”
a spokeswoman said.
The council is required to identify land for gipsy sites in its local development plan, and a policy working group from the scrutiny committee put 11 shortlisted sites to a public consultation.
It recommended to cabinet that the former road safety centre be allocated in the LDP as the preferred site for residential accommodation, with the Ringland Allotments as a back-up, with Brickyard Lane as a contingency.
A yard near the A449 was recommended as the preferred transit site, while land at Celtic Way, Marshfield was picked as a contingency.
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